The Houston mayoral election will take place this fall as Mayor Annise Parker’s final term comes to a close. With no incumbent running for the position, Houstonians will have the opportunity to vote for new hopefuls on Nov. 3. The two winning candidates from the general election will compete in a runoff election in December.

There are a total of 13 candidates running in the general election, but according to Baker Institute fellow in urban politics and professor of political science Robert Stein, seven candidates are strong contenders.

“[They are] officeholders, well financed; all but one have raised close to or a million dollars,” Stein said. “[They have] been on the ballot on different occasions and all have what I call a ‘loyal base’: people who have voted for them before.”

Five of the seven leading candidates — Chris Bell, Ben Hall, Sylvester Turner, Adrian Garcia and Marty McVey — were present at the Houston Mayoral Candidate Forum held Sept. 12 in Sewall Hall. Candidates Bill King and Steve Costello were not present.

The event was hosted by the Emerging Latino Leaders Fellowship, Mi Familia Vota, the Hispanic Association for Cultural Enrichment at Rice and the Student Government Association at University of Houston Downtown.

According to Stein, one of the most important issues on the ballot for this election is the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance. HERO would prohibit discrimination on the basis of 15 different characteristics, including an individual’s sex, race, sexual orientation, gender identity or religion, in city employment, housing and business services. “The equality ordinance is highly controversial and salient to groups of people,” Stein said. “However, is it unclear how it [HERO] will affect the election [results].”?All but one of the seven credible candidates, Hall, declared support for the passage of HERO.

Hall, who ran for mayor in 2013 and lost to current mayor Annise Parker, previously served as Houston city attorney. According to Hall, although he opposes HERO, he is familiar with discrimination as an African-American who grew up in the segregated South and won several discrimination court cases.

“I know better than any of these candidates what discrimination is. I also know what the law requires,” Hall said. “I oppose the HERO ordinance because it is a dangerous and bad law. It has an imprecise definition of male and female, therefore it makes people have to turn into gender police.”

Garcia said he created policies during his time as sheriff in Houston to protect members of the LGBT community while they were in custody and he believes HERO will protect all Houstonians and the city’s economy.

“Everybody here that is willing to work hard, play by the rules and contribute to the success of our city ought to be respected, supported, protected and well served and I believe HERO does that,” Garcia said.

McVey said the ordinance is needed so that those affected by HERO may be protected.

“Over 200 cities across the country have similar ordinances,” McVey said. “By voting no on HERO, you are unprotecting 13 classes of people which includes veterans, pregnancy, women, people of color. This is access to equal justice. This law allows complaints to be heard in a municipal court.”

Lovett College sophomore Nicky Joseph, a native Houstonian, said he supports Chris Bell.

“Chris Bell is a native Texan and has extensive experience in politics, as both a member of the U.S. Congress and Houston’s City Council,” Joseph said. “His primary focus on making Houston an even better place to live and raise families is an idea that really resonates with me.”

Duncan College senior JB Makhani, who worked for the mayor’s office in 2012, said he is supporting Adrian Garcia.

“[Garcia] has worked in the justice system and helped reduce crime [in Houston],” Makhani said “More importantly, he is a strong supporter of the equal rights ordinance, and would be the first Hispanic mayor of Houston.”

Stein, who said he has polled every Houston mayoral election since 1979, recently polled 1,000 Houstonians.

“I am inclined to think that Sylvester Turner and Adrian Garcia will be in the run-off,” Stein said. “I am unsure who will [win].”